10 Best Songs of the Week: Porridge Radio, Still Corners, The Mountain Goats, Jeff Tweedy, and More | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, October 29th, 2020  

10 Best Songs of the Week: Porridge Radio, Still Corners, The Mountain Goats, Jeff Tweedy, and More

Plus Tim Heidecker, Sufjan Stevens, Future Islands, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Sep 18, 2020
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Welcome to the 37th Songs of the Week of 2020. Just as we were finishing up this week’s list we got word that beloved Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died. As if 2020 couldn’t get any worse. R.I.P. a true legend, the Notorious RBG. 

We were a bit overwhelmed by this week’s new songs, as lots of notable artists released new songs in the last seven days and some even released two separate new songs this week. It was quite a task to narrow it all down.

Remember that we recently announced our long-awaited new print issue, with Phoebe Bridgers and Moses Sumney on the two covers. Find all the info here and buy a copy directly from us here.

This week on our website we also posted interviews with Fenne Lily and Deradoorian, as well as a My Favorite Album interview with One True Pairing.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Orville Peck, Another Sky, Zakk Sabbath, Yo La Tengo (a reissue), and Fenne Lily. Plus every week we post reviews of various other things (some weeks including DVDs, Blu-rays, films, concerts, and TV shows).

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the 10 best the last seven days had to offer, along with highlighting other notable new tracks shared in the last week. Check out the full list below.

1. Porridge Radio: “7 Seconds”

Porridge Radio, a band from Brighton, England fronted by Dana Margolin, released a new album, Every Bad, in March via Secretly Canadian. This week they shared a brand new song, “7 Seconds.”

Margolin had this to say about “7 Seconds” in a press release: “‘7 Seconds’ started out sounding really different to how it sounds now. A few years ago I wrote a really slow, long and drawn out song about the end of something that was never right. I was sitting with Sam early last year and I played it to him and asked him if he could help me make it less miserable. He wrote the main keyboard riff almost immediately and it came together really quickly after that; we re-structured and re-arranged it and added the end part, which I think of lyrically as a kind of conversation between two different versions of myself.”  

Every Bad includes “Lilac,” a song the band shared via a video in December that was #2 on our Songs of the Week list. Then when the album was announced Porridge Radio shared another new song from it, “Sweet,” via a video for the track. “Sweet” was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Then they shared another song from it, “Circling,” via a video for the track (which was also one of our Songs of the Week). In July Porridge Radio teamed up with Lala for the new song “Good For You.”

Margolin started Porridge Radio as a bedroom recording project, before enlisting the rest of the band: bassist Maddie Ryall, keyboardist Georgie Stott, and drummer Sam Yardley. A press release bills Every Bad as the band’s debut album, although in 2016 Porridge Radio did self-release the lo-fi album Rice, Pasta and Other Fillers, apparently recorded in a garden shed.

Pick up our current print issue (Issue 67) to read our interview with Porridge Radio and check out our photo shoot with Margolin.

2. Still Corners: “The Last Exit”

This week Still Corners announced a new album, The Last Exit, and shared its lovely title track via a video for it. The Last Exit is due out January 21, 2021 via the band’s own Wrecking Light label. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

Still Corners are the male/female American/British duo of Greg Hughes and Tessa Murray and The Last Exit is their fifth album, the follow-up to 2018’s Slow Air, 2016’s Dead Blue, and 2013’s Strange Pleasures (a criminally under-appreciated dream-pop gem released via Sub Pop).

With song titles like “White Sands” and “Shifting Dunes,” The Last Exit was inspired by the desert and “The Last Exit” video was filmed in Joshua Tree.

“We found something out there in the desert—something in the vast landscapes that went on forever,” says Hughes in a press release.

While the album was already in the works before the pandemic, COVID-19 prompted the band to refocus a bit. Murray explains: “There's always something at the end of the road and for us it was this album. Our plans were put on hold—an album set for release, tours, video shoots, travel. We’d been touring nonstop for years, but we were forced to pause everything. We thought the album was finished but with the crisis found new inspiration and started writing again.” 

“The Last Exit” single is considered the final chapter of the Still Corners’ Road Trilogy, following “The Trip” and “The Message.”

In 2016 Murray wrote a My Inner Geek guest blog post for us about Star Trek: The Next Generation and you can read that here.

3. The Mountain Goats: “Get Famous”

The Mountain Goats are releasing a new album, Getting Into Knives, on October 23 via Merge. This week they shared its second single, “Get Famous.” It’s a horn-backed song that makes fun of wanting to be famous.

Frontman John Darnielle had this to say about the song in a press release: “If I told you all how much fun we had making this one you wouldn’t even believe me, but we hope it comes through.”

Getting Into Knives is the follow-up to 2019’s In League With Dragons and was recorded with that album’s engineer, Matt Ross-Spang, now acting as producer, at Sam Phillips Recording in Nashville in the same studio where The Cramps recorded their debut album. The band features frontman John Darnielle, drummer Jon Wurster, bassist Peter Hughes, and multi-instrumentalist Matt Douglas.

“We would work until midnight and then return to the house where all four of us were staying, directly across the street from the studio, and hang out for hours on the patio,” Darnielle explains in the album’s bio.

Previously the band shared Getting Into Knives’ first single, “As Many Candles As Possible,” via a lyric video for it. “As Many Candles As Possible” was one of our Songs of the Week.

4. Jeff Tweedy: “Love Is the King”

On Tuesday Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy announced a new solo album, Love Is the King, and shared two songs from it, “Guess Again” and title track “Love Is the King” (which was our favorite of the two and makes this week’s main list). Love Is the King is due out digitally on October 23 via dBpm (the physical release date is TBA). Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

Love Is the King is Tweedy’s third solo album in as many years and follows 2018’s WARM and 2019’s WARMER. Wilco also put out a new album, Ode to Joy, last year. On October 13 Tweedy is also releasing a new book, How to Write One Song is due out October 13 via Dutton. That follows his 2018 memoir, Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back). So, yeah, Tweedy has been busy.

Tweedy had this to say about Love Is the King in a press release: “At the beginning of the lockdown I started writing country songs to console myself. Folk and country type forms being the shapes that come most easily to me in a comforting way. ‘Guess Again’ is a good example of the success I was having at pushing the world away, counting my blessings—taking stock in my good fortune to have love in my life. A few weeks later things began to sound like ‘Love Is the King’—a little more frayed around the edges with a lot more fear creeping in. Still hopeful but definitely discovering the limits of my own ability to self soothe.”

Read our interview with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy on Ode to Joy.

Plus read our 2015 joint interview between Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and Australian singer/songwriter/guitarist Courtney Barnett, from our Best of 2015 issue.

5. Tim Heidecker: “Property” (Feat. Weyes Blood)

Actor/comedian/musician Tim Heidecker (of Tim & Eric and Heidecker & Wood) is releasing a new album, Fear of Death, on September 25 via Spacebomb. This week he shared another song from it, “Property,” that features backing vocals by Natalie Mering (aka Weyes Blood). The song is about the likelihood of cemeteries being turned into neighborhoods with houses. (Hasn’t he seen Poltergeist? That kind of thing doesn’t tend to go well with the souls burried there.) “Oh the dead won't care/They'll just be lying there,” sing Heidecker and Mering.

Previously Heidecker shared the album’s title track, “Fear of Death,” via a video for the song, which was one of our Songs of the Week and also featured Weyes Blood. Then he shared the album’s second single, “Nothing,” which was a song is about the finality of death for those who don’t believe in an afterlife and also made a our Songs of the Week list. 

As well as Weyes Blood’s Natalie Mering, Heidecker’s backing band on the album features Drew Erickson (Jonathan Wilson, Dawes), The Lemon Twigs’ Brian and Michael D’Addario, Jonathan Rado (Foxygen), and string arrangements by Spacebomb’s Trey Pollard (Foxygen, Bedouine). 

“I didn’t know that this record was going to be so focused on death when I was writing it,” Heidecker said in a previous press release. “It took a minute for me to stand back and look at what I was talking about to realize that, yes, I am now a middle-aged man and my subconscious is screaming at me: ‘You are getting old, dude! You are not going to live forever! Put down that cheeseburger!’” 

Heindecker previously released the fake break-up album What The Brokenhearted Do... back in June of last year. It was created after alt-right trolls spread a rumor that Heidecker's wife had left him. But, according to the previous press release, Heindecker is leaving satire in the wind and shooting straight for the scarily morbid: the inevitability of death.

“This record is a dream come true for me,” said Heidecker. “I got to work with some of the best, and nicest, musicians in town who helped me take some shabby, simple tunes and turn them into something I’m really proud of.”

6. Sufjan Stevens: “Sugar”

Sufjan Stevens is releasing a new album, The Ascension, on September 25 via Asthmatic Kitty. On Tuesday he shared another song from it, “Sugar.” There are two versions of the song, the over seven-minute long album version and a four-minute long version shared via a music video. Ezra Hurwitz directed the video, which features a Black family in a rundown house. Kyle Abraham choreographed the video, which stars Samantha Figgans, Raymond Pinto, Walter Russell III, and Celeste Mason. Check out both versions of the song below.

“‘Sugar’ is ultimately about the desire for goodness and purity (and true sustenance),” says Stevens in a press release. “On the surface the song is just a string of clichés, but the message is imperative: now is the time to gather what is good and pure and valuable and make it your own, and share it with others. Feed your soul and speak new life into those around you. Give each other love, respect and sacrifice. Relinquish all the old habits, all the old ways of thinking and doing, all former practices—‘business as usual’—and bring new life to the world. This is our calling.

Choreographer Abraham had this to add: “The way I approach choreography tends to blend elements of the everyday with moments of abstraction. I was compelled by the tempo and the tone of the song...especially when choreographing the duet material and solo material for Samantha Figgans and Raymond Pinto. This song and its undertones created a lot of really fun scenarios to play with choreographically.” 

Previously Stevens shared The Ascension’s first single, 12-minute long closing track “America.” “America” was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Then he shared the B-side for the “America” single, non-album track “My Rajneesh,” which also made our Songs of the Week list. Then he shared the album’s second single, “Video Game,” via a video for the song. “Video Game” was also one of our Songs of the Week.

Stevens says The Ascension is “a call for personal transformation and a refusal to play along with the systems around us.”

And while “America” may seem written for these times, it was actually written six years ago, prior to the election of Donald Trump, when he was working on his last fully fledged studio solo album, 2015’s Carrie & Lowell. Stevens then re-recorded “America” and used it as a jumping off point for The Ascension. Musically, The Ascension seems much closer to the experimental and disorientating sounds of his 2010 album The Age of Adz, rather than the more delicate folk of Carrie & Lowell.

Stevens recorded most of The Ascension himself, on his computer, and basing it around a drum machine and synthesizers. Stevens calls it a “lush, editorial pop album,” one that finds us all at a “terrifying crossroad.”

“My objective for this album was simple: Interrogate the world around you,” Stevens adds. “Question anything that doesn’t hold water. Exterminate all bullshit. Be part of the solution or get out of the way. Keep it real. Keep it true. Keep it simple. Keep it moving.”

7. Future Islands: “Moonlight”

Future Islands are releasing a new album, As Long As You Are, on October 9 via 4AD. This week they shared another new song from it, “Moonlight,” via a video for it. Will Mayer directed the video, which chronicles a relationship and stars Matthew Gray Gubler and Callie Hernandez.

Frontman Samuel T. Herring had this to say about the song in a press release: “‘Moonlight’ is a song about love in a depressive state. It’s about recognizing the holes in ourselves and recognizing the circular whole of others. ‘Moonlight’ is about acceptance because that’s what love allows us all. I couldn’t see, I had a cloud in my arms, but if I asked you would you say, ‘It’s only rain, nothing more.’”

Future Islands have also announced more details of “A Stream of You and Me,” which is a livestream event on October 9 and their only live show of 2020 (it’s also their 1,235th live show). It will be filmed in Maryland and features “a bespoke one-off light show created by light artist Pierre Claude” and will be directed by Michael Garber. Tickets are $15 and available here.

As Long As You Are includes “For Sure,” a new song the band shared in July via a video. “For Sure” features backing vocals from Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak and Flock of Dimes and was one of our Songs of the Week. Then when the album was announced they shared another new song from it, “Thrill,” via a video for the song (which was also one of our Songs of the Week).

As Long As You Are is the follow-up to 2017’s The Far Field. The band’s core lineup of Samuel T. Herring (vocals), John Gerrit Welmers (keyboards), and William Cashion (bass), has now been officially joined by longtime touring drummer Michael Lowry (who also contributes to the songwriter). The four-piece co-produced the album with engineer Steve Wright, recording it at his Wrightway Studios in Baltimore.

Read our 2014 cover story article on Future Islands.

8. Sunflower Bean: “Moment in the Sun”

On Thursday New York trio Sunflower Bean shared a brand new song, “Moment in the Sun,” via a video for the track. “Moment in the Sun” is a bright pop song about “the importance of spending time with the ones you love,” as a press release puts it, and is their first new song of 2020. Andy DeLuca and Sarah Eiseman directed the video, which features frontwoman Julia Cumming and Marquis Rodriguez (of Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us).

In the press release, the band collectively had this to say about the song: “‘Moment in the Sun’ is about finally recognizing what is important in one’s life, the people you decide to spend it with. All of these things we distract ourselves with, the neverending mountain of career climbing, the pursuit of financial success, and the hope that after all that trying you could finally be cool. All of that is meaningless in comparison to one great day, hour, or moment with someone you really love.”

Of the video the band had this to say: “While quarantining together upstate this summer we decided to make a music video for ‘Moment in the Sun.’ We thought the best way to visually represent the meaning of the song, while also taking inspiration from this isolating time everyone has been forced to live in, was to create two separate worlds. One world which exists totally inside a home, mostly in a lonely bedroom. The other world exists completely outside in the sun and is made up of memories of a summer love. We invited Marquis Rodriguez, who is one of Julia’s best friends since high school and also an incredibly talented actor, to co-star in the video. He was crucial in helping us tell the story of summer love and show those potent memories of tenderness coming to life. While living alone, the character Julia is portraying becomes flooded with memories and moments from the past summer, and as a result her bedroom starts to transform into the outdoor world. We built up the entire bedroom using real sod and flowers. Her memories are brought to life, just like the room.”

Dave Bassett and Jacob Portrait (of Unknown Mortal Orchestra) produced “Moment in the Sun.” Sunflower Bean’s last album was 2018’s sophomore effort, Twentytwo in Blue, which followed their 2016-released debut album, Human Ceremony. In 2019 the band also released the King of the Dudes EP. Sunflower Bean also features Nick Kivlen and Jacob Faber.

Read our 2016 interview with Sunflower Bean, as well as our review of Human Ceremony.

9. Bartees Strange: “Kelly Rowland”

Washington, D.C.-based singer/songwriter/guitarist Bartees Strange (real name Bartees Cox Jr.) is releasing his debut album, Live Forever, on October 2 via Memory Music. This week he shared another song from it, “Kelly Rowland,” via a video for the short track. The song is inspired by Strange’s encounter with a group of young Black fulltime artists in Berlin a few years ago. Britain Weyant directed the video, which features Strange singing the song in a dark studio, with simple white animation sometimes overlaid.

Pick up our current print issue (Issue 67) to read our exclusive interview with Bartees Strange on Live Forever.

In July Strange announced that the album was coming this fall, but shared no other details beyond releasing its first single, “Mustang” (which was one of our Songs of the Week). Then in August Strange officially announced Live Forever and shared another song from it, “Boomer,” via a video for the track (which made it to #1 on our Songs of the Week list).

Live Forever was recorded in a barn studio in Wassaic, NY. It was later mastered by Grammy-nominated producer Will Yip. A press release digs into the album’s genre-blurring sound: “It spans gentle, Moses Sumney-meets-Yves Jarvis minimalism, Kings of Leon-ish indie rock vigor with post-punk cracks in its danceable veneer, the throbbing industrial alt-soul of Algiers, Justin Vernon’s acoustic tenderness, and the volatile, unforgiving production and delivery of Death Grips.” 

Strange first garnered attention for covering a string of The National tracks, including on Say Goodbye to Pretty Boy, his EP of National covers released earlier this year on Brassland, a label run by members of the band. He was born in Ipswich, England, but grew up in Mustang, a largely the white and conservative rural town outside Oklahoma City. “Boomer” is partly about getting stoned with his dad for the first time and how his dad is proud of the growth Strange has experienced since leaving Mustang. “Things are changing,” Strange says in a press release. “I can change too, and this is who I want to be.”

Live Forever finds Strange taking full creative control. “I’m often the only Black guy in the room when I’m playing in a band or working in a studio and I’ll be honest, I don’t think the engineer always knew what I wanted to capture, what I was trying to do or what I was referencing,” Strange says. “I wanted a space where I could be in control of how it was gonna sound, and have people there to check me that I trust.”  

10. Andy Bell: “I Was Alone”

Andy Bell, founding member of ’90s British shoegaze band Ride, is releasing his debut solo album, The View From Halfway Down, on October 9 on Sonic Cathedral. This week he has shared a new song from the album, the atmospheric “I Was Alone,” via a video for it.

In a press release Bell describes “I Was Alone” as “a Spacemen 3-influenced song about dealing mentally with solitude.”

Previously Bell shared the album’s first single, “Love Comes in Waves,” via a video for it. “Love Comes in Waves” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Bell began writing the album in 2016, but shortly after, Ride’s live reunion tour became a full time return, and the band released two albums and embarked on two world tours. When the pandemic hit, Bell decided it was finally time to work on and release his debut solo album, sharing the first single today on his 50th birthday.

The View from Halfway Down was engineered by Gem Archer and mastered by Heba Kadry.

Bell had this to say about the album in a previous press release: “I’ve always wanted to make a solo album, I’ve always said I would do it, although I never imagined it happening like, or sounding like, this one does. I’d been sitting on this pile of almost finished tracks, along with all the other hundreds of ideas that had fallen by the wayside since I’ve been making music. Lockdown gave me the opportunity to find a way to present it to the world.

“The album is not about songwriting. There aren’t many verses or choruses, because this album is about sounds, a listening experience.”

Ride reformed in 2014 to do some touring and finally released their first new album in 21 years, Weather Diaries, in 2017 via Wichita. That was followed by the 2018 EP, Tomorrow's Shore and then 2019's This Is Not a Safe Place.

Honorable Mentions: 

These nine songs almost made the Top 10.

The Avalanches: “Music Makes Me High”

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard: “Straws In The Wind”

Lambchop: “Reservations” (Wilco Cover)

Local Natives: “Statues in the Garden (Arras)”

Angel Olsen and Emile Mosseri: “Mr. Lonely” (Bobby Vinton Cover)

Told Slant: “Family Still” and “No Backpack”

Travis: “All Fall Down”

Jamila Woods: “Sula (Hardback)”

Other notable new tracks in the last week include: 

The Avalanches: “Take Care In Your Dreaming” (Feat. Denzel Curry, Tricky, & Sampa The Great)

Will Butler: “Bethlehem”

Clark: “Isolation Theme (Thom Yorke Remix)”

Death Valley Girls: “Under the Spell of Joy”

Deftones: “Genesis”

EELS: “Are We Alright Again”

Marika Hackman: “Realiti” (Grimes Cover)

HEALTH: “CYBERPUNK 2.0.2.0.”

Lande Hekt: “Whiskey”

Brittany Howard: “Goat Head (EARTHGANG Remix)” and “Short And Sweet (Bon Iver Remix)”

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings: “Signed Sealed Delivered I’m Yours” (Stevie Wonder Cover)

Mary Lattimore: “Silver Ladders”

ghostly · Mary Lattimore - Silver Ladders

Lykke Li: “I Will Survive” (Gloria Gaynor Cover)

Stephen Malkmus: “Juliefuckingette”

Mourn: “Men”

Partner: “Big Gay Hands”

Prince: “I Need a Man”

PUP: “ROT”

slowthai: “Feel Away” (Feat. James Blake & Mount Kimbie)

Mina Tindle: “Indian Summer”

Tomberlin: “Hours”

Jeff Tweedy: “Guess Again”

Vagabon: “Home Soon (Antebellum Film Mix)”

Eddie Vedder: “Cartography”

Faye Webster: “Better Distractions”

Ziemba: “Power of Love”

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